68. Brasserie Federal, Zurich, Switzerland

Whenever I want to get mugged, I go out for dinner in Zurich.


It’s hard to understand why Brasserie Federal doesn’t work. The shell of the building is exquisite: sweeping arched windows, stained-glass roof, perfect people-watching opportunities. But then there is the shiny silver turnstile leading down the tasteless ‘marble’ stairs to the bathrooms (two francs please), the laminated sheet of Word art with blue toilet people acting as a sign, the miserable hot lamp attendants ambling around the ill-advised el fresco kitchen.




There are around 100 beers, but they needn’t have bothered. Much of the list is like choosing between Heineken and Amstel; hardly Sophie’s choice. There are glaring omissions from this Swiss beer list: Storm & Anchor, I’m looking at you. At best, the microbrew scene in Switzerland can be described as inchoate, but quality is still there. Just not here. The Mousetrap (a tiny bar beside a British cheese shop) and Fork & Bottle (American-run family-friendly restaurant with an incredible beer garden) are your best choice in Zurich for Swiss beers. Yep, an English and an American place serve the best Swiss beers.


The service is quick, in tune with their customers’ needs, which is somewhat refreshing in Switzerland. My waiter was particularly friendly, striking up a conversation with ease, seemingly happy to speak English with the tourists (you’d think he’d get bored of that).


Venue: 2/10

Convenient, and a top, top people-watching area. But the inside is generic, worn, and hard to take a picture of that makes it look impressive.

Beer: 2/10

Probably the widest selection of Swiss beers. But why bother?

Worthy? No.

Not even the best bar in Zurich.


101. Bierproeflokaal In de Wildeman, Amsterdam, Holland

A music-free emporium of beer housed in an old distillery, In De Wildeman is in a very exclusive class of beer bars.


Unfortunately, a smear of tourist gash has spread insidiously around In De Wildeman, but don’t let that confuse your navigation; yes, there really is a coffee shop opposite, a souvenir shop next door and a frat house down the road.


Trappist beers are, blessedly, becoming quite common. Much rarer, is a barman asking if you want a room temperature or cold Orval, who then expertly pours the bottle into two glasses (above) so that you can enrich to your tastes. Brilliant. Even better, you can marry your Orval with some Trappist cheese or a soft, melting cheese and chutney pie.



IMG_9950The decor is wood, beer and dust. There are some old, rare bottles and glasses, and old books. An entrance tucked away beside the bar leads to a second room, where one can find space at peak times, and solitude at others. All this charm comes at a price, and the beers are expensive, even for Amsterdam.IMG_9919

There is a small selection of outdoor seating. With your back to the wall and a beer in hand, this is a great people-watching spot.



Venue: 9.5/10

It’s hard to imagine a better drinking den. Maybe upgrade the tacky plastic menus?

Beer: 9.5/10

18 drafts, ~250 bottles, a carefully selected guest range and regulars chosen by the regulars’ whims. The range is stunning, well-kept, poured and presented.

Worthy? Yes

Is there any better?